Crude Buster/Two Crude Dudes (Data East, 1991)
Beat em ups.
I've said so much already. What more can I add? The style was super hot in the 16-bit era, and still weaves its way in and out of the limelight from time to time. The formula is classic, even timeless, to speak boldly... one or two protagonists (maybe more, if hardware permits), punching and kicking their way through hordes of baddies, occasionally facing down a lieutenant or three on their way to the Big Bad Guy(s). The format allows game designers to go way out into left field for enemy and level design, and that's unfailingly where developers were at in the early and mid 90s.
Crude Buster, alternately titled Two Crude Dudes, fits that bill precisely; it is wild, colorful, and just-beyond-real. Released for arcades by Data East in 1991, the game is hailed by many as a classic entry into the beat em up family, and the game did so well in arcades that it was released in 1992 for the Mega Drive/Genesis. Players control one of two hulking mercenaries hired on by the government to take back a ruined New York from a group called “Big Valley,” who (literally) nuked the city and claimed the rubble as their own.
Now, I don't know if “Big Valley” is one of those “lost in translation” things, but it isn't a very heavy-sounding name for a terrorist organization full of tattooed punks and mutant bio-monsters. They make up for it in action, though. Your unreasonably buff nuclear warrior is first assailed by shirtless frisbee aficionados and what look like mustachioed elf men; things soon turn a bit more dire as you face the first boss – a brute rivaling you in swoleness, in face paint and KISS shoes, wielding snakes.
As you progress through the nuclear ruins of NYC, shit only gets more serious. The most annoying enemies early-on are the little hunchbacks who latch onto you and sap your vitality as they gnaw on you. However, it gets far worse as weirder and weirder mutants come crawling out of the rubble to make your Brian Bosworth-looking ass wish you never shook hands on that government contract.
Thankfully, your crude dudes are pretty monstrous themselves. They can easily lift set-pieces as big as junked cars, as well as most enemies they can grab. These make great projectiles to supplement your determined (if not terribly graceful) punching and kicking. If you get low on health, look for soda machines. JUST LIKE IN REAL LIFE, drinking some fizzy water loaded with coloring and corn syrup will save the day. These also usually show up in little vignettes between levels; the arcade version just puppets you through, while the Genesis port makes you whack the cans out of the machine yourself.
The graphics in the arcade version really don't suffer much in the crunching-down for the 16-bit Genesis port. They are on par for their time; things are a riot of color, and there's a comic book level of detail to everything (not to mention the cool visual popup sound FX a la 1960s Batman). The sound is where some effort clearly went in; the arcade version features a lot of digitized FX and some good music. The Genesis port actually has better music with a more fitting pace to it, but it loses a lot of the digitized stuff out of sheer space efficiency.
All things considered, I'd give Crude Buster an 8/10. It's challenging, fun, colorful, and definitely deserves mention in any conversation about the beat em up format in video gaming. Crude Buster is different enough to interest you, but it's still a red-blooded beat em up hit through and through.